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Why Christians and Politics have a hard time

When your heart and soul belong to a kingdom-oriented system rather than a world-oriented one, things get tough.

Especially around election season.

The early Christians weren’t willing to concede that Caesar was God or even “god-like”. They fed the poor when others wouldn’t. They viewed people as more than “shadow” as was the prevalent worldview fed on by the masses from Grecian philosophers.

In today’s political climate, there’s a lot of demagoguery. People pander to whichever group they’re speaking to and truth becomes hard to separate from fiction.

I’m under no illusions. I don’t equate Democrats, Republicans, Libertarians or Independents as Christian. I expect the lost to behave as lost people. My base of expectation is that “all have sinned” and are fallen. So the notion of “trickle down” tends to sink in the wake of sinfulness. It’s just easier to buy a jet ski than it is to give money to the poor. At the same time, those who are interested in creating systems to capture people tend to believe that people need capturing. And yet the Christian believes in the freedom of personal choice. God allowed us to choose Him even as He pursued us.

America has one major god: wealth. It’s second major god is: independence. The Christian doesn’t believe in either. We just don’t see wealth as the ultimate goal in freedom. We are entirely dependent on the work of the Holy Spirit even for personal transformation.

So it against this backdrop that I’d like to demonstrate just how politics and Christians clash, and why many followers genuinely struggle politically. Let me clearly state that one can be a Christian and be affiliated with any political party. But they should be very careful in furthering the perception that they are bound.

They aren’t.

But there are some genuine issues and these boil down to social issues and type of governance issues. And it’s not that it’s tricky for us personally. It’s that we recognize that the system for which we’re voting is a lost system within a lost world. So it’s a bit like the 10 Commandments: finding which rules apply as the minimum standard so that people can find freedom from the law through Christ.

What constitutes a minimum standard?

 

SOCIAL ISSUES

Social issues are really values issues. Again, there are two sides: what do I value and what do I believe society should value? The Christian values the Bible. This doesn’t mean that society will. In fact, the Bible states most won’t if only because they don’t believe it is the source of truth. At best, they think it has some truthful points. And then there are degrees of interpretation.

But I do believe society should respect Christianity even as it would respect other faiths. Respect is different than validation. I find zero validity in the theology of Mormonism. But I do respect that they have a system of morals based on a Judeo-Christian ethic.

Make sense? Great. Let’s get really specific:

1.       Abortion: the value of life.

For the Christian, this (should) be an easy choice. Christians have never valued themselves over others. In fact, the sole requirement of being a Christ-follower is that we have to give our lives away. So the notion of the “right of the mother” over the “right of the child” is nonsensical to us. The mother values the child. The child, on its own merits, has a right to life.

And though it’s unpopular, Christians have never supported punishing the innocent. We have mercy on those who are victims of violence. But we cannot support the justification that violence should beget violence on a life that was also without blame. Particularly not an infant.

There are hardline Democrats (Martin Sheen) and hardline Republicans (Pat Buchanan) who would agree on this.

A minimum standard for every society should be the right of the unborn to be valued and loved. And live.

2.       Homosexuality

Homosexuals really want spiritual validation. What they want is to be married in a church with the blessing of God.

But God’s blessing on that choice is the one thing the Christian can’t offer. We can offer love, compassion, understanding, etc. We can offer defense by prosecuting those who would belittle, degrade or hurt homosexuals. We understand that homosexuality is a result of sin…and everyone is sinful.

But the Christian is constantly bending his/her own will to the desires and will of God. It is our number one priority: not my will, but Yours be done.

There’s an increasing agenda that says anyone should be able to marry anyone(s) that they’re in love with. If a girl falls in love with her dog, shouldn’t she and her dog have the same rights as others?

I certainly have my opinion on that, but that’s not really pertinent to this post. Rather, God sees the union of a man and woman as a fusion. We’re against rampant sexual immorality of any sort for that reason. Affairs are on par with other sexual immoralities.

So what’s the minimum standard here?

Well, in a lost world, they can governmentally determine what they’d like – as well as the rights associated with marriage unions. Caesar was once betrothed to a 13-year old boy.

But no pastor or Christian leader anywhere should perform a single wedding ceremony to legitimize that act before God. What we need are less wimpy spiritual leaders. To many are afraid that God is exclusive. But God is exclusively God. He is available to all…but He is not all things to all people.

3.       Race and Gender

No Christian can be racist. That was given up at the Cross when Jesus died for all. No Christian can be genderist. That was given up at the cross as well. Neither male nor female, Jew nor Gentile, etc…

Likewise, in the Christian worldview, leadership is not demanded. Submission is mutual. And everyone submits to God. In the Christian world view there is no “unisex”. There are simply two sexes who – for good reasons – are different. We don’t look down on the woman who stays at home because we don’t view the home as beneath a woman. But if both the man and woman have jobs to do the same thing then they should be paid equally. Christians have always been champions of equality because Christ died for all. (We’re also champions of equity because Christ meets us where we are.)

Now, let’s consider the social platforms of our political institutions. One pursues wealth and assumes people will just be really philanthropic. The other pursues elitism, believing its smart enough to dictate to everyone what dependence or values look like. Both are wrong.

 

Government:

1.       Size

Should government be big or small? To me, there’s room for legitimate dispute on this among Christians. For those who think government should be big, they view paying taxes as an investment in social organization and security. For those who believe it should be small, they view paying taxes as a way to guarantee that a minimum standard does not turn into a maximum one. In my experience, there are a lot of “Holy Spirit, Jr.’s” out there who love becoming legalistic.

I’m for smaller government because I think a large government leads to legalism. Legalists always take away rights in the guise of giving them. The more “liberal” the social strata the greater the sense of legalism (ie. who is an “insider” and who isn’t) and therefore, elitism.

This is not a Christian issue. This is a question of how we view interdependence. Plus, while it’s easier to buy a jet ski than it is to give to the poor, I like the position of the Christian in that scenario. Christians will stand out precisely because they don’t respond to social needs the way that the world will – and I’m pretty much okay with that.

No one can truly thrive without a mission. If your mission is to serve the poor and mine is to honor God by serving the poor, then I’m happy to come alongside others so they can see why God’s mission is bigger. 

2.       Role

What’s the role of government? It goes to follow that if I believe in smaller government, I’ll want the role of government to be critically “on-point.” Here are the five things I think government (state or federal) should do:

a.       Defense.

Some things are worth dying for. My faith is one of them (and faith is largely about values – in this case, God’s values over my own). There are some values worth dying for.

b.       Infrastructure.

Government should build roads, bridges, and other ways for people to connect and get around. Expenditures should be environmentally friendly – because God’s first command was for us to care for the environment in which He placed us. “Environmentally-friendly” changes over time. I’ve no problem learning that the motor vehicle is bad for the environment. Now that we know it is, let’s figure out new ways to move ahead. We’ve managed to put a personal computer in the palm of our hands and remain connected through something with zero physical presence (the Internet). And you’re telling me we can’t figure out a way to move from point “a” to “b” in a better way? Come on.

Infrastructure is also an important component of building strong communities (something we’re sorely lacking). Any family should be able to bike to the local grocery store without fear of being run over.

c.       Competitiveness.

Government should break up monopolies in whatever form they take: unions or companies. They should also step in and legislate the percentage of influence that the stock market can have on GDP. The reason for this is that mass hysteria (the market goes crazy if someone even ‘thinks’ a certain direction – okay for private risk, but horrible for collective risk) or small fiefdoms do not provide everyone to have an opportunity. The door should be slightly ajar to everyone.

Closed doors make it easy for evil to hide. So government should have some minimum standards to make sure that companies play by the rules.

And those rules should be easy to understand (unlike our tax code)

d.       Immigration

We’ve seen what immigration without the law looks like. It was called the Old West, and there was a reason by people needed a sheriff. Outlaws weren’t good guys. They were bad guys.

We need some minimum standards on immigration (for me that’s an issue of shared language and shared understanding of civic law) in order to go from the OK Corral to Mayberry, USA.

e.       Education

This is a real sticking point, I know. Some believe that education should only be up to the parents. But again, I believe in minimum standards and a fallen society. So I know that some parents love their children while other parents exploit them.

A government should have minimum standards of testing. Period. No one moves on to Level B unless they’ve got Level A down. An “F” is an “F”.

Because it’s minimum, we shouldn’t try to create a system for two working parents (school lunches, etc.). It’s up to the parents or parent to figure out how to meet those standards – private, public, whatever. But the standards should be in place and no one should be able to do anything without them. Everything else should be flexible – time of school, place of school, who can teach at the school.

Don’t teach to the test, but test for the content. That means tests need to be more than just quantitative. Reading, writing, math. And all tests should be in English. Math should include a section on managing personal finances.

That’s it.

Sciences or Arts or Sports or Languages should be optional (though encouraged). With a flexible school system in terms of when those three basic courses are offered, it may give rise to a whole new competitive education on all six PLUS. In other words, I don’t care if you attended Khan Academy for free. But I need to know you can read this paragraph and multiply.

Comments

1. As far as voting Pro-Life, across the board I've found "the other" party to be much more pro-life than the one typically expected of Christian's to vote for. One of the first thing on Ryan's chopping block is the National School Lunch Program which provides free or reduced school meals to children who live at or below poverty. Not to mention, we expect women to do with their bodies what WE believe is right because of our religion, yet we scream and yell when affordable health care initiatives are put in place to care for this pregnant mother, and let's not even talk about regulation of birth control. And finally, the death penalty. If you're truly pro-life I hope you are also against the death penalty. Otherwise it appears that Christians do not care about life at all, but rather forcing our religion and values onto others.

2. I don't know many of my homosexual friends that want spiritual validation. Just like my husband and I don't believe that because our government recognizes our CIVIL union we have SPIRITUAL validation. Those are two separate things. What most of our homosexual friends want is to be treated like the rest of HUMAN BEINGS that live in America. America, which is supposed to protect the rights of it's citizens. So, I understand that Christians typically believe that homosexuality is wrong. Fine, then don't choose to have a marriage relationship with someone of the same sex as you. But this is a democracy, not a theocracy. Many Christians today, regardless of where you stand on the issue, interpret "Love your neighbor as yourself" to mean NOT fighting that others be withheld the same rights they themselves enjoy. Many Christians today recognize that scientific data is pointing more and more to sexual orientation is determined at birth and is not a choice. More Christians today are educating themselves on how the Bible came into existence and the errors in interpretations of those 6 verses that mention homosexuality.

The analogy you make between a loving, committed, homosexual relationship and that of bestiality truly made me want to vomit. It shows that you have no clue about what gay people experience every day. And I can almost 100% guarantee it means you don't have a friend or loved one that is homosexual. The churches response to the gay community has been unacceptable in my opinion. We've hurt the already marginalized and hurting. I wonder how much responsibility we will have to take for the teen suicide rate that is astronomical among gay individuals.

1. As far as voting Pro-Life, across the board I've found "the other" party to be much more pro-life than the one typically expected of Christian's to vote for. One of the first thing on Ryan's chopping block is the National School Lunch Program which provides free or reduced school meals to children who live at or below poverty. Not to mention, we expect women to do with their bodies what WE believe is right because of our religion, yet we scream and yell when affordable health care initiatives are put in place to care for this pregnant mother, and let's not even talk about regulation of birth control. And finally, the death penalty. If you're truly pro-life I hope you are also against the death penalty. Otherwise it appears that Christians do not care about life at all, but rather forcing our religion and values onto others.

2. I don't know many of my homosexual friends that want spiritual validation. Just like my husband and I don't believe that because our government recognizes our CIVIL union we have SPIRITUAL validation. Those are two separate things. What most of our homosexual friends want is to be treated like the rest of HUMAN BEINGS that live in America. America, which is supposed to protect the rights of it's citizens. So, I understand that Christians typically believe that homosexuality is wrong. Fine, then don't choose to have a marriage relationship with someone of the same sex as you. But this is a democracy, not a theocracy. Many Christians today, regardless of where you stand on the issue, interpret "Love your neighbor as yourself" to mean NOT fighting that others be withheld the same rights they themselves enjoy. Many Christians today recognize that scientific data is pointing more and more to sexual orientation is determined at birth and is not a choice. More Christians today are educating themselves on how the Bible came into existence and the errors in interpretations of those 6 verses that mention homosexuality.

The analogy you make between a loving, committed, homosexual relationship and that of bestiality truly made me want to vomit. It shows that you have no clue about what gay people experience every day. And I can almost 100% guarantee it means you don't have a friend or loved one that is homosexual. The churches response to the gay community has been unacceptable in my opinion. We've hurt the already marginalized and hurting. I wonder how much responsibility we will have to take for the teen suicide rate that is astronomical among gay individuals.

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About
Derek Webster is pastor of Radiate, a new church planting movement in Richmond, Virginia. Derek also works for a national think tank addressing major demographic trends.


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